October 2, 2014 / 6:44 PM / 3 years ago

'Real Housewives of New Jersey' couple get prison in fraud case

Teresa and Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice, stars of the reality television series "Real Housewives of New Jersey" hold hands as they arrive at U.S. federal court in Newark, New Jersey, October 2, 2014.Mike Segar

NEWARK N.J. (Reuters) - Teresa Giudice, star of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," was sentenced on Thursday to 15 months in prison and her reality television co-star husband to 41 months behind bars in their federal fraud case.

The couple arrived holding hands at U.S. District Court in Newark, where Judge Esther Salas spent hours berating them for years of hiding income and lying to obtain loans.

"I'm not sure you respect this court. I'm not sure you respect the law," Salas said before ordering Giudice, 42, to serve her sentence first, followed by her husband, so their four daughters will have child care.

The judge repeatedly referred to the "imminent deportation" of her 44-year-old husband, Giuseppe Giudice, an Italian citizen better known as Joe, but no further information was immediately available.

He was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay $414,588 in restitution and fined $10,000. Teresa Giudice was sentenced to 15 months in prison fined $8,000.

"I can't even explain the pain that I've gone through," she sobbed, wiping her tears. "My daughters are my life. They are the first thing I think about when I wake up."

The judge scolded her for failing to live within the law.

"On one hand you are a savvy businesswoman who writes successful cookbooks and markets herself so well. On the other hand you say you didn't know how to cooperate. It defies logic," Salas said. "In the eyes of the law, it doesn't matter who you are."

The Towaco, New Jersey, couple entered plea deals in March, admitting to bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Joe Giudice also pleaded guilty to failure to file tax returns on income totaling nearly $1 million.

He could have been sentenced to up to 46 months in prison. Teresa Giudice faced up to 27 months.

Teresa Giudice must turn herself in to authorities to begin serving her sentence on Jan. 5, 2015, the judge said, to allow the family to spend the Christmas holidays together.

The Giudices have appeared in five seasons of the Bravo channel show, where they reveled in their luxury lifestyle and spent lavishly on their children and themselves.

In the first episode, Teresa Giudice paid $120,000 in cash to furnish a room in their house styled after a French chateau.

In their plea deals, the couple admitted that from 2001 through 2008, they submitted fraudulent applications for mortgages and other loans, falsely claiming to have substantial salaries.

In September 2001, Teresa Giudice applied for a $121,500 mortgage by falsely claiming she worked as an executive assistant and submitting fake W-2 forms and fake pay stubs, prosecutors said.

In 2005, for a $361,250 mortgage, she falsely claimed to be working as a real estate agent making $15,000 a month, when in truth she was unemployed, they said.

In 2009, the couple filed for bankruptcy protection, concealing businesses they owned, income from rental property, and Teresa Giudice’s income from the "Housewives" show, prosecutors said.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Eric Walsh and Mohammad Zargham

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